I’m the CFO of a small business, and our employees came to me expressing concerns about the CEO’s management style. Should I tell him? What should I do about their complaints?
No doubt, it must be incredibly uncomfortable to answer to the company employees while addressing what could be a very serious management issue. If you don’t take action, employees could quickly lose respect for the CEO, and his ability to lead might be called into question.
The solution is twofold. First, talk to the employees. Make sure you keep the conversation productive and positive. Let them know you hear their concerns and appreciate their willingness to share their thoughts with you. Ask for specific examples of the CEO’s management style that they find challenging. You’ll need them to “show, don’t tell” so that when you approach the CEO you can speak with authority.
Request that they not speak about these frustrations with their peers or underlings, since barbed gossip can erode company morale and productivity. Tell them you’ll do what you can to address the situation, and get back to them once there’s a plan in place.
Now, on to the more difficult part. Yes, you absolutely need to have a face-to-face with your CEO. The truth is that no one else will if you don’t. By virtue of the employees coming to you, they believe you’re able to have that tough conversation.
Of course, how you approach him depends on your current relationship. If it’s more of a peer-to-peer relationship and you have a history of talking about personal or uncomfortable topics, then addressing this issue shouldn’t be too difficult. If you don’t have such a history, you may want to consult an executive coach who can guide you in effectively confronting him.
Either way, tread lightly and come prepared with specific examples from the employees. Stress how important it is to address these issues for the company to thrive. Finally, make sure you have a game plan, like the name of an executive coach or management training program, to help your CEO find a solution.
— Toddi Gutner